Major George Champion Crespigny, 68th Foot, was killed on 30 July 1813 in the Battle of the Pyrenees during the Peninsular War against Napoleon’s forces in Spain.
|Major George Champion de Crespigny (1788–1813) by British School Date painted: c.1810 Oil on canvas, 76 x 65 cm Collection: Durham Light Infantry Museum from http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/major-george-champion-de-crespigny-17881813-46147 retrieved 24 March 2014|
George was the son of Philip Champion de Crespigny (1738 – 1803) and his fourth wife Dorothea née Scott (1765-1837). He was born in 1783 at Hintlesham Hall, Suffolk. He was the tenth of fourteen children. Three of his older siblings died before he was born.
On May 19 1804, at the age of twenty-one, George became an ensign, a regiment’s lowest-ranking officer, in the 13th Regiment of Foot by purchase.
|Recorded in The Gazette (London Gazette), issue 15702, 15 May 1804, page 622|
George’s father Philip had died the year before, on 1 January 1803. His mother married Sir John Keane on 27 March 1804. In 1804 his surviving half-siblings and siblings were:
- Philip (1765-1851) was a civilian prisoner of the French from 1803 to 1811.
- Anne (1768-1844) had married Hugh Barlow of Pembrokeshire Wales in 1791.
- Maria (1776-1858) married John Horsley, a captain in the Royal Horse Guards, in July 1804.
- Fanny (1779-1865) remained unmarried.
- Eliza (1784-1831) eloped with Richard Hussey Vivian (1775-1842) and they married at Gretna Green in September 1804. Vivian, later Lord Vivian, was a major in the 7th Light Dragoons. Vivian was soon to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
- Charles Fox (1785-1875) had been at Cambridge University in 1803.
As a younger son, George was probably destined for a career in the church, army, navy or possibly law. Although his father had been a lawyer, George chose the army. George had not been to Cambridge like his brother, so perhaps George was not suited to the career of a lawyer.
An ensign was the most junior commissioned officer. In 1871 the rank was replaced with 2nd lieutenant. The duties of the officer included carrying the regimental colours, the flag or ensign of the regiment.
In May 1812 George de Crespigny, Captain from the 68th Foot, became a captain in the 89th Foot. He exchanged with Captain Peter le Mesurier. (The Royal Military Chronicle VOL.IV May,1812 By The Duke of York pages 476-7)
On 17 October 1812 George, promoted by purchase to be Major, was back with the 68th Foot. ( The London Gazette Publication date: 10 October 1812 Issue: 16657 Page: 2065)
John Green, late of the 68th Durham Light Infantry, that is the 68th Regiment of Foot, wrote of his experiences in the Peninsular War from 1806 to 1815.
Green writes of the unnecessary strictness of a major when he, Green, was ill in the middle of July 1813.
|Green, John. ‘Vicissitudes of a Soldier’s Life‘, 1827. Louth. page 171 retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/vicissitudesaso00greegoog#page/n185/mode/2up|
The major is almost certainly George de Crespigny. Green records the death of the Major ten pages later in his account of this part of the campaign.
Major Crespigny was killed on the 30th of July. ( The London Gazette Publication date: 16 August 1813 Issue: 16763 Page: 1609)
John Green wrote of the 30th of July and the events leading up to it including “Pampeluna” (as the siege of Pamplona was called by Green), the division being stationed at “Marcelain” (Marcaláin is 11 kilometres or 2 1/2 hours walk north of Pamplona).
|Green, John. ‘Vicissitudes of a Soldier’s Life‘, 1827. Louth. pages 179-181 retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/vicissitudesaso00greegoog#page/n193/mode/2up|
Another modern account of the 68th Foot’s action may be found in “Notes on Wellington’s Peninsular Regiments: 68th Regiment of Foot (Durham Light)” by Ray Foster at http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/Britain/Infantry/WellingtonsRegiments/c_68thFoot.html
21st June 1813 (after the battle at Vittoria)
Present after battle (PAB) 484
Grant has been badly wounded so that Inglis will return for a while to hold the brigade and in fact will have it for a considerable time onward. There is much marching and counter-marching about the foothills of the Pyrenees in the Bastan Region during the next month ending with a night march in teeming rain to come up to the concentration of the army about Sorauren, for a while during all of this Inglis will be in charge of the whole of 7th Division but, when the CIC decides for the offensive on 30th July Dalhousie is back in command ready to send Inglis and his men forward and down into the Ulzama valley just west of Sorauren village, they meet General Vandermaesen’s men who put up a stout resistance trading volley for volley in a sustained fire-fight which is only broken off when Soult’s men are streaming off in rear of these others who effectively become a rearguard as the whole enemy array attempts to disengage, going off to the rear at some pace. The Major of 2/68th one George Crespigny is shot through the throat and killed during the pursuit, a great relief it seems to most of his junior officers and men who saw him as a martinet, Captain Henry Irwin and Ensign John Connell fell seriously wounded and Lieutenant James Leith lightly so, of the men, three died and another sixteen were injured so that:
30th July 1813 (after the second battle at Sorauren)
Foster’s theory of the reasons for the relief felt by de Crespigny’s men on his death is based largely on Green’s book. (email 6 July 2014)
- On younger sons at the time of Jane Austen: Handler, Richard, and Daniel Alan Segal. “Jane Austen and the Fiction of Culture.” Google Books. Rowman & Littlefield, 1999. Web. 04 Apr. 2015.
- Durham Light Infantry Museum frequently asked questions http://www.dlidurham.org.uk/Pages/HistoryFAQs.aspx